- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 15, 2004

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld yesterday conceded for the first time that progress in Iraq is not where he thought it would be a year ago when a U.S.-led coalition ousted dictator Saddam Hussein on April 9, 2003.

Mr. Rumsfeld’s admission came as he announced that about 20,000 U.S. troops will be kept in Iraq longer than planned because of an upsurge in violence by insurgents around Fallujah and by several thousand followers of radical Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in the south.

Democrats have criticized the Bush administration over what they consider poor planning for post-Saddam Iraq. Pentagon documents first reported by The Washington Times show that planners failed to predict the flood of Saddam loyalists and foreign fighters who repeatedly have attacked and killed American personnel and Iraqi allies.

Pressed by reporters yesterday at a press conference, Mr. Rumsfeld said, “If a year ago you had asked me to describe where you would be on April 15, 2004, in Iraq, how might you have described it? And I answered by saying I would not have described it precisely the way we are now. … I certainly would not have estimated that we would have had the number of individuals … that we have had lost in the last week.”

Nearly 100 soldiers and Marines have been killed in fighting the past two weeks. A total of 687 have died since Operation Iraqi Freedom began March 19, 2003.

Army Gen. John Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Persian Gulf, said earlier this week that he needed at least two additional combat brigades to deal with the limited uprisings.

Mr. Rumsfeld made the formal announcement yesterday, saying Gen. Abizaid’s request would be met largely by keeping in Iraq elements of the 1st Armored Division, based in Germany, and the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment from Fort Polk, La. The two units were scheduled to depart in the coming weeks after a one-year tour and will be retained up to three more months. The armored division will contribute 14,500 soldiers, and the regiment 2,800. Support units will contribute the remaining troops to reach the 20,000-troop addition.

“We regret having to extend those individuals,” Mr. Rumsfeld said. “What they’re doing is important. It’s noble work, and in the end it will be successful.”

Mr. Rumsfeld’s options were limited. There are few available ground combat units outside Gen. Abizaid’s theater that could be moved to Iraq without jeopardizing future troop deployment schedules or security commitments worldwide.

Mr. Rumsfeld was asked whether he had underestimated the level of troops needed to secure the California-size country after the ouster of Saddam. The secretary deferred to Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, the Joint Chiefs’ vice chairman who also appeared at the press conference.

Gen. Pace said the invasion force and subsequent peace-enforcement deployment are the exact numbers requested by Army Gen. Tommy Franks and his successor, Gen. Abizaid.

“The military commanders have asked for specific amounts of forces, and every force that have been requested of the civilian leadership, we have been authorized to provide,” said Gen. Pace, who played a large role in war planning. “I don’t know how to make it any more simple than that.”

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